New Zealand’s most successful Olympian, a Māori Battalion veteran and a driving force in public health are among six New Zealanders appointed knights and dames of the New Zealand Order of Merit, in this year’s New Year honours list.
Lisa Carrington who has won six Olympic medals, five of them gold, is one of three new Dames alongside the country’s most successful Paralympian, swimmer Sophie Pascoe, and former privacy commissioner Marie Shroff, who has been honoured for services to the state and community.
The last surviving member of the 28th Māori Battalion, Robert Gillies, has been made a knight for services to Māori and war commemoration.
He is joined by Christopher Farrelly, the former Auckland City missioner and University of Otago’s Joel (Jim) Mann who have also been made knights. Jim Mann’s health research, particularly for coronary heart disease and diabetes is recognised worldwide.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said all three knights have contributed to the country in different but equally important ways.
Farrelly has dedicated his life to supporting New Zealand’s most vulnerable, she said.
He has led the development of the soon to be opened Home Ground, an innovative purpose-built facility to stand against homelessness, hunger, poor health and access to health care.
Mann pioneered research into non-communicable disease prevention such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease, Ardern said.
He has been recognised internationally for his work and has been appointed to numerous World Health Organisation advisory groups and centres.
“Covid means many things are uncertain in the world right now, but one hugely important constant is the never-ending efforts New Zealanders go to on behalf of their fellow citizens.
“I thank them all and would like to make sure they know this country is a better place because of them,” Ardern said.
Minister of Sport and Recreation Grant Robertson said Lisa Carrington was a remarkable athlete, having a total of 23 medals in her canoe racing career.
At this year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo she became the first female triple gold medallist from New Zealand at a single Olympics.
Robertson described her as tough, determined and consistent but off the water she was also a well-rounded, humble and kind person.
“This honour is recognition of all her attributes and qualities. She is truly one of our greatest ever sportspeople.”
Sophie Pascoe is the youngest to be awarded the title since the New Zealand Order of Merit was established in 1996 but Robertson said there is no doubting her rightful place in the country’s sporting history.
“Sophie has had an astounding career. She made her international debut at just 13 years old and has not stopped performing at the highest level since then.
“Her determination, talent and total commitment make her a role model for all New Zealanders,” Grant Robertson said.
She is New Zealand’s most decorated Paralympian, winning 19 medals across four Paralympic Games, 28 medals at five world championships and four medals in two Commonwealth Games.
At the age of 15 won three gold medals and one silver at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games.
She won another three golds and three silvers at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, setting two world records in the process. She achieved a further three gold and two silver medals at the 2016 Paralympic Games, setting a world record in the 200 metre women’s individual medley.
At this year’s Paralympics she departed Tokyo with two golds, a silver and a bronze.
She has been named Disabled Sportsperson of the Year on six occasions at the Halberg Awards and was named Para Athlete of the Decade in 2020.
Marie Shroff held the privacy commissioner role from 2003 to 2014.
She also oversaw the implementation of the MMP electoral system in the 90s and has been the chair of the Electoral Commission since 2019.
She told RNZ she is surprised but delighted to be appointed a Dame and said being privacy commissioner during a time of such great technological change was fascinating.
She said the award is recognition of the great support she had from her staff, across both the Office of the Privacy Commission and at the Electoral Commission.
Career dedicated to helping the less fortunate
Farrelly was founding chief executive of Manaia Health in Whangārei from 2003 to 2016 and recently retired after five years as Auckland City Missioner.
Last Christmas as the City Mission prepared to feed hundreds of people he told RNZ that the Covid-19 pandemic has opened people’s eyes to the importance of helping, and there had been a growing level of kindness, care, and compassion.
He also worked in health in Te Tai Tokerau. Under his leadership, Manaia PHO achieved a significant Te Tiriti-based partnership between Māori health providers, local hapu and GPs.
Farrelly was also a driving force in initiating discussions with Fonterra that led to the establishment of the Milk in Schools programme.
He was a founding member and chair of the Te Tai Tokerau Healthy Homes Project, which has now insulated more than 12,000 homes.
Mann has pioneered research on non-communicable disease prevention and management at the University of Otago’s Departments of Medicine and Human Nutrition since 1988.
His research has been published in 400 scientific publications and 90 books, and has helped drive world-leading interventions in the fields of coronary heart disease and diabetes.
He has led committees that have developed guidelines both internationally and in New Zealand for the management of obesity and diabetes, and cardiovascular disease risk assessment.
In 2013, he and his team at the University of Otago did research for the World Health Organisation, looking at the contribution of sugar to obesity. The work eventually led to sugar taxes being introduced in some parts of the world.
Professor Mann said it took perseverance to see action taken because he first wrote a similar paper in the 1970s.
He said he is still waiting to see the New Zealand government introduce a sugar levy.
Since 2015 he has been director of Healthier Lives – He Oranga Hauora National Science Challenge, which aims to reduce the disease burden associated with four of New Zealand’s major non-communicable diseases and achieve equity of health outcomes for all New Zealanders.
He is also a board member of the Heart Foundation and previously served as medical advisor to Diabetes New Zealand, and has worked with both organisations for more than 30 years.
Minister for Māori Development Willie Jackson has paid tribute to both Carrington (Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki, Ngāti Porou) and Robert Gillies.
Bom, as he is affectionately known, is of Ngāti Kahungunu and Ngāti Whakaue descendant.
He is the last remaining member of the 28th Māori Battalion and served in B Company during World War II from 1942 to 1945, across Africa, Europe and the Middle East, and primarily in Italy.
“Over more than 20 years, Bom has represented the men and service of the Battalion at national and international events.
“Bom is a reluctant recipient, he is a man of integrity and humility and agreed to accept this knighthood to honour the memory of the magnificent Māori battalion,” Jackson said.
Gillies, who is 96, has spoken of his sadness at the passing of many of those he fought alongside and his hope that the contribution of the 28th Māori Battalion overseas will always be remembered.
He has been an active member of the Te Arawa Returned Services Association.
He has long been active with his iwi Ngāti Whakaue, and continues to work on the marae, maintain the war memorial, and participate in iwi affairs.